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September 21 ,2020

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Following complaints by local businessman Terry Singh that his company has been replaced at the Chinese-owned Aurora Gold Mines (AGM) by China firm CHEC,  the Private Sector Commission (PSC) has written to President Irfaan Ali calling on to address concerns about local content being at stake.

Previously Canadian owned, AGM is now owned by the Zijin Mining Group Co and concerns have been raised as to whether local suppliers and partners will be retained by the company.

“We are actively looking at a complaint which was brought to us which by our member Terry Singh of Japarts  which said that he has the contract with (AGM) and it has basically been given, arbitrarily from his point of view, to CHEC (China Harbour and Engineering Corporation). He has about 200 employees,” Chairman of the PSC Nicholas Boyer told Stabroek News yesterday.

Efforts to contact Singh proved futile as calls to his mobile phone went unanswered.

This newspaper understands that Singh’s company was contracted to provide transport and also leased heavy-duty equipment to the company. He had invested US millions to purchase the equipment. He was on contract with AGM but when it was bought over he was notified that his services were no longer needed.

This newspaper was told that Singh’s contract went to CHEC. Director of the Corporate Office and Compliance at the Aurora Gold Mine (AGM) Peter Benny could not be reached yesterday for comment.

Boyer said that he will today write the President asking if he could investigate the issue since it concerns local content here and Ali has been adamant that his government will not let locals be trampled on.

Singh is a member of both the Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners Association and the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Meanwhile, Minister of Natural Resources Vickram Bharrat told this newspaper that it was simply untrue that 200 staff of the Aurora Gold Mines will be laid off and replaced by Chinese nationals and said that he met with the company’s officials last week.

Attending that meeting with the local stakeholders were also new AGM Chief Executive Officer and General Manager Victor Wu, Chief Financial Officer Peter Luo and Administrative Manager Frank Liu.  During their meetings, the AGM executives spoke of the goals and objectives of the company under Zijin. They were accompanied by Benny.

Bharrat pointed to a release that he dispatched on the issue and said that only last week the new AGM Inc administrators met with stakeholders and commenced rehiring operations and these will be based on regulations and best practices.

“Officials of Zijin Mining Group Company Ltd and AGM Inc. (Aurora Gold Mines), recently held introductory meetings with a number of senior government officials of stakeholder agencies in the mining sector to discuss mining related issues.  Zijin Mining, a multinational mining company, headquartered in Xiamen, China acquired AGM Inc. in August from its previous owners Guyana Goldfields.

…“During discussions with  the Minister of Natural Resources Hon. Vickram Bharrat and Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Natural Resources, Mr. Joslyn McKenzie several issues were discussed including the need to ensure a balance between mining and sustainable development, environmental programmes, and occupational health and safety. Minister Bharrat also encouraged the Company to include Guyanese in its labour force and to make local development a priority,” the release said.

“Additionally, the Minister emphasized the role of corporate social responsibility and the need to work actively with communities that may be impacted by the mining operations of the company. As such, the company agreed that this is an area of priority and will endeavour to continually engage local communities and relevant regulatory agencies.   Further, high on the agenda was the use of local suppliers and local employee engagements to allow for prudent management of the mining operations and stakeholders’ relations.

And as complying with labour laws and occupational health and safety is believed to be integral to the operations, the release said that the team also met with Chief Labour Officer Charles Ogle at the Ministry of Labour and discussions centred on the process of rehiring former employees, as well as union representation of workers.

Additionally, the Minister said, the company has committed to working closely with the union, while the AGM team is currently conducting an evaluation exercise and assessment as it recommences  operations which were halted in July before the sale of the company from Guyana Goldfields to Zijin.

“The team has begun rehiring a number of former employees whose services were terminated when mining ceased, which resulted in the company being placed under a care and maintenance programme. To date, some 220 former employees of approximately five hundred (500) that were dismissed during the shutdown, have been rehired. Meanwhile, it is expected that additional employees will be rehired as the various units, sections, and departments are reactivated leading to full resumption of operations and production.”

Meanwhile, Bharrat said that in meetings with  Head of the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission Newell Dennison, along with Deputy Commissioner Dianne McDonald and GGMC Mining Manager Krishna Ramdass,  the group also discussed several issues, including the  timely inspection of the mine and regular interaction between technical teams to ensure compliance and environmental best practices.  The group also met with Eondrene Thompson, General Manager, Guyana Gold Board to discuss issues governing gold trade.

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